Magnanimity

Back in Jan­u­ary, I briefly talked a bit about the need for more sin­cer­i­ty in the world. I still think that post holds true, but, as in most things, could be expand­ed upon after more reflec­tion. I’ve had chats with friends about call-out cul­ture & seen eye-rolling amounts of out­raged head­lines & no end of online chat­ter about how some thing or some one didn’t do some thing well enough to please some one. As cliche as it is: per­fect remains the ene­my of good; and those who expect their def­i­n­i­tion of per­fec­tion to be met will for­ev­er be out­raged by the fal­li­bil­i­ty of every one.

What I almost nev­er see is mag­na­nim­i­ty — I don’t see acknowl­edge­ment and praise of effort, or under­stand­ing & encour­age­ment when some­one is try­ing but makes mis­takes. I under­stand that it may be hard to be mag­nan­i­mous when most peo­ple are push­ing their own agen­da (either disin­gen­u­ous­ly or sin­cere­ly), but I fail to see how the exco­ri­a­tion of imper­fec­tion & fal­li­bil­i­ty is use­ful for any­thing oth­er than vain­glo­ri­ous virtue-sig­nal­ing & self-aggran­dize­ment. It’s a neat lit­tle tau­to­log­i­cal flip to sup­port the type of pride that was once con­sid­ered sin­ful back when peo­ple believed in sin. With­out a sense of humil­i­ty, it’s nigh impos­si­ble to be mag­nan­i­mous. The world would cer­tain­ly be a bit bet­ter off if we prac­ticed it from time to time.

Peo­ple need to chill.

The Conversion of Saint Paul, Caravaggio
The Con­ver­sion of Saint Paul, Car­avag­gio

Sincerity

In the apoth­e­o­sis of post­moder­ni­ty that we are cur­rent­ly sub­ject­ed to sin­cer­i­ty is hard to find. The alt-fact (pro­pa­gan­da) & alt-right (white suprema­cist) are unscrupu­lous­ly disin­gen­u­ous at dis­sem­bling. The social jus­tice left has balka­nized due to self-inflict­ed “No True Scotsman”-ship. Hip­ster irony in the ear­ly aughts was at least per­for­ma­tive — a joke that every­one was in on; and even if you didn’t think it was fun­ny, you at least knew it was a joke. Now, just about every­body is a revan­chist.

The tools used to make noth­ing mean any­thing, and any­thing mean noth­ing have been so refined that 140 char­ac­ters can take 10,000 of analy­sis to unpack. Speed, vol­ume, and anonymi­ty cre­ate so much noise that there might as well be no sig­nal.

I used to think hip­ster irony was the prob­lem & that sin­cer­i­ty was the answer. I was wrong. Post­moder­ni­ty is the prob­lem.

I still think sin­cer­i­ty is the answer.

My General Political Philosophy

Ethics

In gen­er­al I sup­port can­di­dates, leg­is­la­tion, and civ­il behav­iors that most close­ly meet my eth­i­cal and moral stan­dards. The dis­cern­ment process becomes pro­gres­sive­ly more refined as nec­es­sary, which, it turns out, isn’t very often. I was raised Catholic, so my moral and eth­i­cal foun­da­tions are Judeo-Chris­t­ian. Core tenets:

…Thou shalt love thy neigh­bour as thy­self. There is none oth­er com­mand­ment greater than these.
Mark 12:31

But he, will­ing to jus­ti­fy him­self, said unto Jesus, And who is my neigh­bour? And Jesus answer­ing said, A cer­tain man went down from Jerusalem to Jeri­cho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his rai­ment, and wound­ed him, and depart­ed, leav­ing him half dead. And by chance there came down a cer­tain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the oth­er side. And like­wise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the oth­er side. But a cer­tain Samar­i­tan, as he jour­neyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had com­pas­sion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pour­ing in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the mor­row when he depart­ed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and what­so­ev­er thou spend­est more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, think­est thou, was neigh­bour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mer­cy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou like­wise.
Luke 10:29–37

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Ver­i­ly I say unto you, Inas­much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:40

Reit­er­at­ing: Meet those stan­dards and get my sup­port. Oppose them and I’m an oppo­nent.

Reason

I sup­port can­di­dates and leg­is­la­tion that make the cor­rect moral, eth­i­cal, and rea­son­able deci­sions, even when they are dif­fi­cult. Poli­cies and posi­tions based on sci­ence, empir­i­cal research, and long-term via­bil­i­ty get my sup­port. I don’t believe in quick fix­es. Gov­ern­ment works best when it is evo­lu­tion­ary — a series of very grad­ual changes we can believe in. If a leg­is­la­tor or piece of leg­is­la­tion does not meet or impedes the progress of cor­rect moral, eth­i­cal, or ratio­nal deci­sion-mak­ing, I oppose.

Anti-incumbency, Complacency, & Overton Windows

Bar­ring dis­qual­i­fy­ing ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences, if a can­di­date or par­ty has been in office or in pow­er in an area for a long time, I’m prob­a­bly going to vote for their oppo­nent, espe­cial­ly in a pri­ma­ry. I blame this on 30 years of hear­ing the same names on the night­ly news. A Bush has been either Pres­i­dent or Vice-Pres­i­dent for 20 years of my life. Clin­tons have been in the spot­light for the same amount of time. The same names have been around in Cleve­land for as long as I’ve been here. I’m not into dynas­ties — famil­ial, eth­nic, or oth­er­wise. I thought it was hilar­i­ous that the best the Ohio Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty could come up with for Sen­ate this year was Ted Strick­land, & the best they could do for the last Gov­er­nor run was Ed Fitzger­ald. Reheat­ed, thin gru­el. Yum! ← This, by the way, is how I feel about most major can­di­dates that run for office.

I also think that the longer a can­di­date is incum­bent — the longer they have to become com­fort­able, com­pla­cent, and like­ly to ignore their con­stituen­cy. You keep a knife sharp by hon­ing it. The same prin­ci­ple applies to peo­ple. Com­fort­able peo­ple are dull. I think every incum­bent should be chal­lenged in a pri­ma­ry when up for re-elec­tion. No free pass­es.

I also vote to shift the Over­ton Win­dow clos­er toward the Judeo-Chris­t­ian eth­ic illus­trat­ed above.

Hoosier Libertarianism

I don’t want leg­is­la­tors or leg­is­la­tion to dic­tate to me or oth­ers how and in what way our pri­vate, per­son­al busi­ness is han­dled. All y’all deserve the pro­tec­tions enu­mer­at­ed in our con­sti­tu­tion. And by all y’all I mean all y’all.

Whatever Remains

I real­ize that this descrip­tion of my polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy isn’t nailed down to the last shin­gle, but I don’t think it needs to be. That ortho­doxy results in the polit­i­cal cli­mate we cur­rent­ly loathe. When there were grey areas to be had in a pol­i­tics, I wel­comed the chance to dis­cuss them, learn, and pos­si­bly have my mind changed. Those days seem to be long past, and not return­ing any time soon.

Saccades

Today, while read­ing Tom Vanderbilt’s The Plea­sure and Pain of Speed from Nau­tilus’ Issue 9, I learned about the sac­cade. This is the term for the rapid move­ment of eyes between fix­a­tion on dif­fer­ent objects. Our visu­al per­cep­tion is basi­cal­ly turned off dur­ing this time — which, appar­ent­ly, makes up about 60 — 90 min­utes of our day.

This ties in nice­ly to an anthro­po­log­i­cal the­o­ry I have that I wrote about over a decade ago: The Space Between Thoughts. I think we have an instinc­tu­al aware­ness that our per­cep­tions are incom­plete — and then we come up with all kinds of sto­ries and the­o­ries for what hap­pens in those gaps, and where our per­cep­tion fails. What hap­pens dur­ing a sac­cade. The sac­cade is where the coin reap­pears — where the mag­ic hap­pens.

It’s nice to final­ly have a word for it.

Historical Footnotes

I posit that the event hori­zon of “his­tor­i­cal­ly impor­tant” as a qual­i­ty of infor­ma­tion is the point at which the dataset dis­ap­pears from liv­ing mem­o­ry. The mag­ni­tude of cer­tain events ensures that they will be record­ed for pos­ter­i­ty, but even then, the rea­sons behind that record­ing fade as the peo­ple who expe­ri­enced it die. I might be using the wrong terms here. Maybe it’s not his­to­ry I’m talk­ing about, but anthro­pol­o­gy. His­to­ry is “these are the things that hap­pened”; anthro­pol­o­gy is “these are the ways peo­ple act­ed.”

Liv­ing as I do, in a soci­ety where many peo­ple are arguably obsessed with record­ing and archiv­ing every detail of their lives, I won­der what meth­ods future historians/anthropologists will use to sift wheat from chaff — espe­cial­ly when, as this post is evi­dence for, so much of what is shared and saved is chaff.

That’s long-term his­toric­i­ty. If his­to­ry is still being record­ed 5,000 years from now, this whole epoch will like­ly be reduced to a one-lin­er: “An age of tech­no­log­i­cal growth so rapid it’s effects threat­ened to destroy civ­i­liza­tion.”

Spe­cif­ic to this is the rise of the auto­mat­ed auto­bi­og­ra­phy. Peo­ple have been post­ing things online so long now that there are ser­vices to show us and let us share what we were doing to the day, 1, 3, 5, or 10 years ago. Is there a broad­er desire to con­sume these mini-his­to­ries, or do they just exist to serve our need to feel more impor­tant than we are? It doesn’t have to be either/or. My bet is that it’s an admix­ture of onanism, exhi­bi­tion­ism, and voyeurism.

Sig­nal to noise depends on your ears.

Trash is trea­sure.

Lauds

This morning, my dog and I caught God
trying to sneak through the city like
a man skipping Mass in search of a drink.

He still filled the sky and his steps were
like the echoes of an empty hallway.
My dog just wagged her tail but I

shouted at him:
I SEE YOU, OLD AFRAID MAN!
He didn’t turn, just created a dirty rabbit

which he threw over-shoulder at my dog. 
I don’t know if my dog or the rabbit was
more surprised. The rabbit dissipated 

using natural rabbit-magic, and when I
looked, so had God. The city whispered
an antiphon: Kýrie, eléison.

On Aging

Aging is the process of learn­ing to appre­ci­ate grey­ness. It is only a gen­tle irony that our hair takes on that hue. The things chil­dren appre­ci­ate and learn about are defined by clar­i­ty: a col­or, a taste, an emo­tion. As time pass­es and expe­ri­ences pile up, red becomes oxblood, sweet­ness and emo­tions take shape by their inten­si­ty.

My near­ly-sev­en son cares not for fic­tion. He wants facts in books. The clar­i­ty has grown in scope, but not in com­plex­i­ty. This will con­tin­ue until at some point he will become old.

That’s where I sit: on old side of things. You become old when your expe­ri­en­tial knowl­edge gives you the abil­i­ty to dis­cern facts from things that pur­port to be facts; and you appre­hend or com­pre­hend that the act of know­ing is equal parts belief and agen­da.

So I no longer demand clar­i­ty. My scope has nar­rowed. I know that no mat­ter how good that beer might be, I’ll enjoy bour­bon more. I know that there is no point try­ing to con­vince peo­ple who hold fun­da­men­tal posi­tions on a top­ic to change their minds. I have reached the lim­its of clar­i­ty and move cau­tious­ly in the vast mist that exists between facts, and between knowl­edge and real­i­ty. Red is a gra­di­ent, fla­vors are com­bined, emo­tions are deep and savored. I under­stand how it is frus­trat­ing to the not-old to see what appears to be a lack of con­cern, or a con­cern with the unsub­stan­tial. The fre­quen­cy of the old is longer, both expe­ri­en­tial­ly and rel­a­tivis­ti­cal­ly.

To be old is to be a ship hap­pi­ly lost in fog, savor­ing the sub­tle­ty of the phan­toms that flit about the cor­ners of our eyes, that, when we were young, we once mis­took for friends.